More than 25,000 university courses currently have vacancies for UK applicants.
Last year more than 50,000 people got a place at university through the clearing system.
Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of university admissions service Ucas, said:
Despite the fall in applications this year, entry to higher education remains competitive and we expect to see an active clearing period.
It is important that all students research course requirements thoroughly and think carefully before making a decision that is likely to affect their future career.
Anyone considering applying again next year can research 2013 courses on our website now.
More top news
Two men will begin their trial over the murders of young British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller.
A slow start for most of us tomorrow with dribs and drabs of rain leaving some of us with a soggy journey into work.
If you're worried your online social circle is thinning out, a new browser extension will let you know who cut you loose online.